I am living what seem to be the last few days here in this city. And yes the reference to the Priyanka Chopra Hall of Crap was just coincidental. It has a life this place like those scary horror movies that claim houses have spirits. Only this city is not scary, in fact it is the contrary. It lives and breathes every day. It sits with you in empty auto rides smiling and hugs the ocean on the Marine Drive from sunrise to sunset.
You can choose to be anyone here because the city is like that old friend who doesn’t judge you. It branches out into parts you probably haven’t seen before and yet holds it back together. There is a reason why the city has been a victim of more terror attacks than other Indian cities. It has this troubling sense of equilibrium; like it is going to descend to chaos any second and yet it hangs on, like an eternal pause. I suppose the terrorists would probably just think it is easy target to bring a nation down but unfortunately every time the city just gets a little ruffled and falls right back into its place as if nothing went wrong.
Unlike Delhi (and mind you it is my hometown and I love the city), people are not looking to pick fights with everyone else. They are instead all about doing their jobs. No wonder it is the financial capital because the culture is that of being industrious. There is no time for laziness, no afternoon siestas (unlike Kolkatta). This city means hard work even when it comes to art and music. It celebrates struggle and gives a grand prize to ones struggling the most. It has so many faces, you tend to lose count. Some days it is that old friend driving you home safe post a night of relentless partying at 1 30 AM. At others it is the boss who works you till the wee hours of the morning. It is also a parent who takes care of you and on many occasions, it is an actor that pretends there is no chaos in this world. The city is like many one night stands rolled into one. Every night you think you know it one bit better and in the morning it surprises you with a new twist in the story.
It is, of course, the people who make this city. I remember a taxi driver telling me this one day he explained why Mumbai is so safe and Delhi isn’t. His logic was that the men in this city come from their homes and earn for their families and send back money. For them, their job is of utmost importance, people are too busy making ends meet to even consider a crime. In Delhi, however, there is no such transience. I have another theory. In the heart of Maharashtrian culture, there lies this inherent respect for women. Perhaps something that slowly erodes as you go up north. Mumbai thankfully has managed to hold on to everything that is good in each culture and build its own humanity.
I didn’t even realize when this city became my best friend until I was sitting alone in an auto, Muhammad Rafi playing in the background and the auto driver quaintly humming “Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya”. That’s what it does, this city. It has an eternal friendship with life and you don’t even realize it and it has found a place in your heart.